Quizzically Musing

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Archive for the ‘News’ Category

What Stops a Nation? A Horse Race or an Airline?

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Tuesday is Melbourne Cup Day, the “Race That Stops A Nation”.  I don’t know why any more – most of the runners are not Australian horses!  Today, however, there is something much bigger stopping our nation: Qantas.  The national airline, the one that still calls Australia home!

Reading The Age, which is carrying several articles and a live Twitter feed, Qantas didn’t see fit to inform the Government of the plans to ground the airline.  Qantas gounding seen hurting airline and economy is one headline.

It came as an embarrassment for Prime Minister Julia Gillard who was hosting a  summit of Commonwealth leaders in the western city of Perth, 17 of them booked  to fly out on Sunday with Qantas.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/business/qantas-grounding-seen-hurting-airline-and-economy-20111030-1mq1g.html#ixzz1cDJC5gC0

This is big.  Not only are many of the Commonwealth leaders stranded, the impact on the Cup will be dramatic.

Who is at fault here?  I don’t know.  I’ve had my own issues to concentrate on of late and to be honest I’ve not been keeping up with the situation other than catch snatches of commentary on the radio whilst driving to work.

I DO know this is not good for our international reputation and I do know the government should have been keeping a closer eye on the situation.  To all those involved, perhaps it is time to find a common ground for the benefit of our nation.  I’m not suggesting the unions back down if their claims are valid (are they?) nor am I suggesting the airline cave in either.  I am suggesting there has to be a common ground you can all reach.

Reach it now, before we look too damn stupid on the global stage.  We have one of the world’s strongest, if not THE strongest, economies at the moment.  But we let this happen?  How did this happen?

Written by Robyn Dunphy

October 30, 2011 at 9:55 am

Another death in detention

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“You can’t keep someone locked up for two years behind an electrified fence and tell them they’re free. All he wanted was one day of freedom – one day – and they wouldn’t give it to him. Well now he’s free.” – A close friend of a refugee named Shooty* spoke these words to us after Shooty died in immigration detention at 3am Wednesday.

The above is the headline introduction to an email I received today.  In the hope of gaining even a small number of additional supporters for the cause, I am republishing this email here.   What is REALLY clear here is that we, Australia, are risking people’s lives.  This young man had been granted refugee status, yet we still kept him behind bars.  Not good enough.

Yesterday news broke of yet another life lost in our detention system. A young Sri Lankan man took his own life after nearly two years of detention inside Villawood — despite being granted refugee status (but not release) earlier this year.

 It was supposed to be a day of celebration. Only a few weeks ago he had asked to spend this Wednesday at his friend’s nearby home, celebrating the Hindu holy day of Diwali, “the festival of lights.” Yet, despite no objections from Serco (the private security firm running Villawood) and the fact that four guards were set to accompany him, the Department of Immigration refused his request – claiming it wasn’t a “compassionate or compelling reason” for a day’s release from Villawood.

Who stands accountable when a man is locked away for seeking asylum, refused even a day’s respite after nearly 730 days of captivity and finally takes his own life in despair? Tell our government enough — end this disgrace. 

http://www.getup.org.au/detention-disgrace

While yesterday’s observance of Diwali was meant to be a “celebration of the victory of good over evil and the uplifting of spiritual darkness,” unfortunately the long-term detention that Shooty suffered broke his spirit. Sadly, a friend yesterday described Shooty as “one of the strongest” in detention and “the last person I expected to commit suicide.” When others were down this was a man who lifted their spirits and kept them positive. “He was loved by everyone.”

 Yesterday the Minister for Immigration confirmed 462 others who have already been granted refugee status and have had health and security assessments are still behind the razor wire right now, awaiting their final security clearance. But it doesn’t need to be this way: ASIO, the government agency in charge of performing these security checks, says there’s no legal requirement in their Act for refugees to be kept in detention. Meanwhile, there have now been six suicides in detention since Labor took office, and transition to community detention hasn’t been happening fast enough.

It is a sad day when a young man finally on the edge of freedom breaks under the weight of an inhumane system and takes his own life. Tell our government, never again:

http://www.getup.org.au/detention-disgrace

Thank you for using your voice,

The GetUp team

* NB: We’ve used the young man’s nickname over fears that family members, still in Sri Lanka, may face reprisal if his real name is publicised.

Support is available, in Australia, for anyone who may be suffering depression or other mental illnesses by calling Lifeline on 131 114

Written by Robyn Dunphy

October 27, 2011 at 7:05 pm

A crime not for the squeamish

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We have recently had a very high profile murder case in the papers: one crook killed another crook in prison.  Lots of front page coverage and analysis of the machinations of the underworld.

Today I came across a case that really shocked me.  A man filling his car with petrol suddenly takes the hose and sprays petrol INSIDE the car then sets his partner slight after stabbing her in the neck.  It gets worse.

‘Vile and horrendous’: petrol killer in court

Clearly this murderer had a few problems.  More than a few problems, one could suggest.  How on earth did this man function at all?

The Judge’s description of the murder as “such a bad murder, such a bad murder” is probably the understatement of the decade, reading the case.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/vile-and-horrendous-petrol-killer-in-court-20110930-1l168.html#ixzz1ZRKIbAgr

Written by Robyn Dunphy

September 30, 2011 at 10:57 pm

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Tony Abbott – do not do it!

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Good grief, what politicians will do to win power.  One of the benefits of living in Australia, at least I believe it is still a benefit, is the right to criticise our politicians, even if we are of the same persuasion!

While Mr Abbott continued to condemn the Malaysia option, the carrot for him is that the proposed changes would ensure as prime minister he could send people to Nauru.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/national/abbott-muddies-water-on-boats-20110912-1k63e.html#ixzz1Xn2wbdfj

Furthermore:

A separate change would also ensure the minister could send children offshore without having to establish this was in their best interests.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/national/abbott-muddies-water-on-boats-20110912-1k63e.html#ixzz1Xn37Hz84

No.  Definitely not.

May I remind ALL politicians of the requirements of the International Refugee Convention as discussed by Michael Pearce: 

Withdrawal from Refugee Convention may be last resort

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/withdrawal-from-refugee-convention-may-be-last-resort-20110831-1jly1.html#ixzz1WhHoDtzt

At first I thought, “What? We can’t do that!” then I read the article. Michael takes an extremely pragmatic approach to the debate, together with presenting a fresh perspective.

Public policy in Australia seems to have reversed the legal position. The major parties and public opinion seem to say that we should refuse refuge to those who reach our shores and seek asylum because that denies refuge to those in the so-called queue. That is, we should abrogate an obligation which is legally binding on us so that we can comply with an imagined obligation by which we are not, in fact, bound.

Michael goes on to say (emphasis added):

This course will no doubt be very unpopular in some quarters and for good reason. It would signal to all that we, one of the richest countries in the world with enviable space and resources to spare, did not want to share with the bedraggled and desperate few who, by good fortune, wash up on our shores. But this is only to tell the truth about who and what we are as a people.

Would that more people listen to people like Michael.

Why this desire for off-shore processing?  What exactly does it achieve?  Why the desire to send unaccompanied children off-shore?  What does that achieve?

Chris Bowen needs to read some history. 

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said unaccompanied minors presented ”very emotional and difficult issues”. ”The overriding obligation is to say to parents, ‘Do not risk the lives of your children to get the prospect of a visa in Australia.’ ”

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/national/abbott-muddies-water-on-boats-20110912-1k63e.html#ixzz1Xn5AF2xs

Parents don’t send unaccompanied children in order to get a visa – they send them to save their lives.  What of all the unaccompanied children sent here from England many years ago?  Was that OK because they were English?  I actually work with a woman who is friends with a person who was sent by their parents to Australia to save that (then) child’s life in precisely the same way children are being sent now.  Unless Mr Bowen is totally oblivious to the realities of life, he knows in his heart if he were faced with the same decisions some of these parents are faced with he would do EXACTLY the same thing.  So would any parent.  Do not make glib comments in the media to try to paint parents as being in the wrong for trying to save their children.

Australia MUST remove the guardianship of these children from the position of Minister for Immigration.  It is hard to imagine a greater conflict of interest existing.  How this came about is beyond comprehension.

Written by Robyn Dunphy

September 13, 2011 at 11:23 am

Racist cruelty does not belong here

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I was terribly saddened to hear of the death of a young Melbourne girl last week.  She was mauled by a dog. 

I was equally horrified to see this article in The HeraldSun.

Racism

Racism at work

Facebook is an international site so it is perceivable the posts came from outside Australia, but I know in my heart this is a naive thought.  Some may well have, but I know not all did.  While The HeraldSun is a tabloid, this has been reported in other media.

This is a CHILD who was mauled to death by a dog while her father was overseas.  How anyone can make the sort of attacks reported in this story is beyond me. 

Are these mindless teenagers with nothing better to do, who think it is funny?  Where are their parents?

Are they the usual batch of internet trolls?  Are they actual white supremacists?  I don’t care who or what they are, what they did is inexcusable and should be punished – yet the perpetrators will probably never be found and are no doubt too cowardly to come forward.

Written by Robyn Dunphy

August 22, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Not In Our Name

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Getup has launched a campaign to stop Australia sending children to Malaysia as part of the “asylum seeker solution”.

I am proud to put my name to the cause and it is somewhere amongst these 31,654 names.

Not in our name

Not in our name

I quote from the email sent to me by GetUp:

To see it all you need to do is grab a copy of The Age. The ad also appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday. You might need a magnifying glass to see your name but that’s a good thing. It means that the response was so overwhelming that we could only fit in everyone’s names by squeezing them in with small font.

Also:

You may have also heard that on Sunday the High Court put an injunction on the Malaysia deal. This will temporarily halt the transfer of asylum seekers to Malaysia. The final outcome of the case may still be weeks away but this is exciting news and you can read more about the court case by clicking here.

We must stop this happening.  Join the cause!

Related:

http://wonderingpilgrim.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/at-last-a-candle-lit-in-the-darkness/#comment-480

http://tonyserve.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/from-getup-not-in-my-name-refugees-australia-malaysia-children/

Written by Robyn Dunphy

August 16, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Global Public Debt – a simple perspective

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Global Financial Crisis, round two.  Global Public Debt.  The words on everyone’s lips these days.  I am not an economist, but everyone seems to have something to say, from Twitter to eminent university professors, so why not me?

I Stumbled (literally, on the website) upon this interesting little debt clock and map this morning at http://www.economist.com/content/global_debt_clock.

Global Public Debt - Three Nations Compared

Global Public Debt - Three Nations Compared

Take a look at the actual map, it is very interesting.  All the VERY red (i.e. in big trouble) countries are the ones we like to think of as being the world leaders or the most advanced civilisations or something equally complimentary.

Of course, in Australia, politicians LOVE to use the debt situation as a way to attack each other.  Looking at the media, it seems that is reasonably common globally. Looking at the figures to the left, we could be a lot worse off than we are.  I am NOT saying this to support the current Federal Government (I have my own personal little battle with that lot), I am simply making an observation about the information as presented by www.economist.com.

I’m a mother and an accountant.  Debits and credits translate into “how much money do I have” and “how much have I spent“.  Yes, I’ve had to borrow, so I have personal debt.  Don’t many of us?  Do I have more debt than I can repay?  No, I don’t (provided I don’t get hit by a bus any time soon and I have insurance against that possibility).

There are so many commas in the numbers to the left, I actually get confused!  Are  we are talking billions, trillions or something greater?  Eight trillion, creeping up to nine, for the USA, depending on which scale of magnitude you use (yes, globally we can’t agree on magnitude).  

Let’s look at the per person debt.  So far, Australia is still, compared to the other two, remarkably healthy, although I can’t say I like how dark pink we are on the map!  I am well aware of how all the economies are intertwined these days, so essentially I consider us rather lucky we aren’t sitting at USA or UK levels.

On top of my own personal debt, I only have to pay off another $11,462 of the public debt.  If I was in the USA I’d have to pay off another $28,350 and I may not have a job, given the unemployment levels in the USA.

I have read a bit about people being up in arms in the USA because the current solution is spending cuts but no increase in taxes on certain groups that many feel should be paying more tax.  Let’s face it, governments get their “income” from taxes (unless the country owns natural resources and generates revenue for the country from those resources).  Countries have budgets, just like any household or business.  Clearly someone’s been overspending!  For a long time! 

This puzzles me.  The USA policy of “fend for yourself” means that they don’t have the same funding of education, hospitals, medications and so on that we do in Australia.  How did they spend so damn much?  What on?  I could read umpteen articles and find a myriad of arguments, as everyone has a perspective.  I’m not going to, because the bottom line is simple to this simple mother.  Spend more than you have, print money you don’t have and guess what happens – you end up in the red.

I remember some years ago, when Bush introduced his first budget, global analysts stating the USA would pay about ten years down the track.  Seems those analysts were not far off the mark.  While it is now hard to find those old articles, I quote from www.economist.com again:

The most important legislation of his first year in office was a $1.35 trillion tax cut that handed an extra $53,000 to the top 1% of earners. At his farewell press conference on January 12th Mr Bush called his tax cuts the “right course of action”, as if they were an unpopular but heroic decision. They weren’t. The budget was in surplus in 2000, and both Mr Bush’s main Republican rival, John McCain, and his Democratic opponent, Mr Gore, also wanted to cut taxes, but by less, so as to pay down more debt and shore up Social Security (public pensions). Mr Bush’s much larger tax cut reflected his, and his party’s, belief that lower taxes restrain the size of government, empower individuals and are good for both growth and Republican prospects.

http://www.economist.com/node/12931660

We all know on a personal level, if we borrow money and have to make repayments, those repayments chew into our disposable income.  If we tighten our belts, we will be OK – if we keep spending at the same rate we were without an increase in money coming in, we’ll end up owing even more.  Is this difficult logic?  What applies in our own households, in our company boardrooms, even to our children’s pocket-money, applies equally to countries.

Some of the poorest countries owe the least.  No-one will lend those countries anything!  Same with poor people – they are not a good risk to lenders, so while they have little, usually they owe little as well.

What will happen?  My crystal ball is in for repairs, sadly, but while everyone is running around blaming everyone else, there is little likelihood of a good solution.  You are up the creek without a paddle, guys, so get your acts together and work in a bi-partisan way to fix the messes you either created or inherited. 

That’s what we pay you for!

Written by Robyn Dunphy

August 7, 2011 at 8:33 am

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